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Timely For Android: A Beautiful, Powerful, and Slick Alarm Clock

By Erez Zukerman2013-08-27

Whatever alarm clock you’re using, it’s uglier than Timely. That’s a bold assertion to make, I know. But I’ve been using Gentle Alarm, one of the most powerful and versatile alarm clocks for Android, for over a year now — and we’ve also looked at other alarm clocks like DoubleTwist and Alarm Clock Xtreme. That’s why I feel confident in saying Timely, a relative newcomer, is probably the most elegant alarm clock available on Android right now. It also doubles at a timer and a stopwatch, and can even sync your alarms across multiple devices so both your tablet and your phone know when to wake you up. This is an alarm clock you should, at the very least, try. Below, I’ll be looking at Timely’s premium version, which currently retails for $3 via in-app purchase.

Alarm and Clock

Let’s start with the core feature: Getting you to wake up and possibly even drag yourself out of bed (ambitious, I know!). To set a new alarm, you don’t have to mess around with tiny textboxes or clock controls: Instead, you can swipe across your entire screen to select the time, then make fine-grained adjustments by tapping either over or under the selected time:

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This is a novel way to set a time, and it makes a lot of sense. With the time selected, you can select the days of the week on which this alarm should be active, enable Smart Rise, and have the clock challenge you to figure out if you’re really awake:

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Smart Rise is a feature that’s “based on advanced sleep cycle theory”. 30 minutes before the designated alarm time, Timely will start playing the alarm softly. As the theory goes, if you’re in a light phase of your sleep, that might be enough to nudge you awake. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s one of the features Gentle Alarm has had for years, called “pre-alarm.” Unlike Gentle Alarm which lets you customize just about any aspect of the pre-alarm, Timely reduces this feature down to a single checkbox — in other words, take it or leave it.

Next up is the challenge: Again, just like Gentle Alarm (and Puzzle Alarm), Timely optionally challenges you with a quick puzzle just to see if you’re really awake. The challenges are much easier than either Gentle Alarm’s or Puzzle Alarm’s — they’re very elegant, but I could easily see myself solving one of these and going right back to sleep. There’s a math challenge, a “random pattern” challenge, and a “match it” challenge which is very similar to a kids’ puzzle:

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Once again, Timely eschews configuration for elegance: You don’t get to set the difficulty of your challenge (something both Gentle Alarm and Puzzle Alarm let you do), but the challenges are very pretty. Here’s the pattern one, which is basically like a lockscreen for your day:

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Finally, there is one area where Timely’s alarm offers much richer functionality than either Gentle Alarm or Puzzle Alarm: Included sounds. The app ships with numerous bundled wake-up sounds, thoughtfully divided into categories such as “smooth,” “harmonic,” “instrumental,” and others. Not only is there a wide selection of wake-up melodies, but they’re actually surprisingly pleasant and polished. When you think about it, your clock’s alarm sound is one of the things you’ll be interacting with the most — long after you’ve settled on your favorite settings, you will still be hearing this alarm each and every weekday (unless you’re lucky). So, it makes sense to offer a great selection of possible sounds to choose from:

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If you want, you can also use Timely as a regular clock:

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You can choose one of three bundled clock faces:

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Timer and Stopwatch

In addition to the alarm clock, you can use Timely as both a timer and a stopwatch. The timer interface uses a radial dial you can rotate to set the desired countdown interval — the exact same mechanic used by Ovo, a highly-polished timer app.

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The stopwatch uses the main area of the screen to for starting and pausing, with a small lap timer on the bottom-right:

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Note how the timer and stopwatch use a different color scheme than the alarm screenshots shown above: That’s because Timely lets you specify your own color schemes.

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There are numerous included schemes, but you can also create a custom one easily.

Widget

There’s a widget, too:

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It does pretty much what you would expect: Just a simple clock, along with the date and the time of the next alarm. Tapping it takes you to the app itself. Unlike the app, the widget allows no visual customizations at all – what you see above is what you get. You can’t tweak the colors, the font, the information shown, or anything else really. This is a good area for future versions to explore and improve on.

Settings

Given the amount of features crammed into Timely, its Settings screen is surprisingly svelte and restrained:

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You can to choose the alarm fade-in length and snooze duration, as well as have the snooze duration gradually shrink (the more you snooze, the less time you have between alarms). This is yet another feature taken right off Gentle Alarm, but while Gentle Alarm lets you specify this on a per-profile basis, Timely uses a global setting for all alarms. You can also set the first day of the week, as well as control the amount of visual effects the app uses.

Oh So Beautiful, If Not Entirely Original

If anything, Timely serves to underscore how crusty and outdated Gentle Alarm’s interface has become. Yes, Gentle Alarm lets you fine-tune your alarm in ways Timely doesn’t allow, but the interface you use to do so is painfully clunky by comparison. Timely also offers another interesting lesson about design: While it doesn’t tightly adhere to the Holo design guidelines, and even includes some wildly superfluous animations, the end result still feels polished and powerful. This is another proof of the old maxim: Rules were made to be broken, and a designer who really knows what they’re doing can safely flaunt them.

Will you be trying Timely out, or are you happy with your current alarm clock? And by the way, which alarm clock is that? Let me know in the comments.

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